May 15th, 2010 23:21 EST
When Everyone Insists on Being Right, Boredom Ensues
The ascent of the punditocracy tends to deprive us of the great virtues of being wrong.
So many Americans are intent on being right "left, right and lunatic "that we have become boors and churls. When the other guy has nothing worth saying we must sooner or later tire of looking in the mirror and finding ourselves wonderful. Trying to live in a world where everybody is right doesn`t leave much room. It`s claustrophobic, a kind of panic room. Insistence on being right is the very definition of boring. Being wrong is exciting, spicy, yummy. You never know what`s going to happen next. It`s an adventure.
When I see our politicians and pundits on television I marvel at how seriously they take themselves, as if the very meaning of existence depends on their being right. They are in fact wrong with clock-work regularity, and that is what makes life so interesting. They obviously haven`t discovered the sheer joy of being wrong, of having the veil lifted, of seeing the light, of treasuring the demonstrable fact that the world is populated with people smarter than you are.
Closing your eyes to being wrong is as entertaining as watching paint dry or grass grow. I prefer dandelions to ideologues any day. Ideologues smell bad. Why wouldn`t they, they`ve been bathing in rotten old ideas. They dress up in hand-me-downs. A guy who gets it all right and has everything he wants and is quite sure you`re wrong and shouldn`t have what you want is already half dead. You can smell him decaying.
But I think it`s more mysterious than that "metaphysical you might say. Or, for all I know, quite mathematical. I think the tension between opposing views, the process of being wrong and changing one`s mind, as well as the process of being right, is necessary to the operation of the whole. If all of us were right there would be no traction in the world; we`d all be butter in a skillet.
All those pols talking at each other in Washington and our state capitals: I don`t think their mommies brought them up right. They`ve been listening to themselves so long they`re boom-box deaf. Just as infinity seesaws back and forth, I think being wrong is necessary to getting it right. It`s essential to making things work, whether we`re talking about quantum physics or playground society. If this is true, then the received idea must be re-examined again and again. If that were not true, our ships would still be in danger of falling off the edge of the world or encountering dragons.
It`s one thing to hold a view with conviction. It`s another thing to insist that to live in the kind of world you want, somebody must be wrong and must pay for being wrong. That kind of world is a crash-car world in which everything and everyone bumps into each other until things break down. Being wrong is an integral part of life, and without it the energy from interchange of ideas is missing. Ideas must collide and from this collision come greater ideas.
But the current mood in the country is, Screw you, I`m right. Yes, and you`re incredibly boring, and you know what we do about boring teachers and preachers "we play hooky. I listen to the rants of the Tea Party, the pundits and all the other ideologues and I worry. The fun of being wrong and of changing one`s mind in the light of study and contemplation goes out of the world to the extent that the loudmouths insist that only they possess the truth and the light. What they possess is methane.
Once I discovered the magic of being wrong, once I discovered that I felt lighter and happier when I admitted to being wrong, when I changed my mind, I was able to put away my lead shoes and wait for wings. My mind became more agile to the exact degree that I entertained opposing thoughts. Why did I have to oppose them? Why did they have to oppose me? Why did I have to dip my mind in cement in order to avoid being called a waffler by someone intellectually lazier? It helped to know a great deal about the life of Alexander the Great, who never saw a changing situation or a different idea that he didn`t like. By today`s stoopid standards he would have been called to task by people who think integrity means blockheadeness.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999. He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com